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 1. State senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) announced an impressive endorsement today in the race for retiring U.S. representative Jim McDermott's open seat: U.S. representative Adam Smith (D-WA, 9) enthusiastically came out for Jayapal in her November match up against state representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill).

"I’ve watched Pramila work for the last 15 years, delivering real results for the people of the Puget Sound region, both as an organizer and as an elected official. I’ve worked closely with her on a number of issues from immigration reform to minimum wage, and am impressed with her ability to work towards real solutions while bringing strong coalitions together,"  Smith said about Jayapal, whose immigration civil rights group OneAmerica (which she founded before she became a state senator), helped move immigration reform through the U.S. senate; it stalled in the GOP house. "Rarely do we have the opportunity to elect someone to the House who brings this level of vision, experience, leadership and relationships to the table. I look forward to working with Pramila in Congress," Smith said.

The endorsement, appropriately demonstrates Jayapal's strength; it follows as something of a formidable response to the news last week from the Walkinshaw camp that Democratic King County council member Joe McDermott (no relation), the third place finisher in this month's primary, quickly endorsed Walkinshaw.

However, Smith's endorsement also unintentionally highlights a potential angle for Walkinshaw: Smith represents the 9th District—which sweeps northeast from Tacoma north through Renton to Bellevue, taking in southeast Seattle, where Jayapal lives...not Jim McDermott's 7th District, where Walkinshaw and Joe McDermott live.

2. State senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Ballard, Magnolia, Queen Anne) published a post on his personal blog yesterday titled “Reflections on Sound Transits Reflections.”

It’s a follow-up to the candid, shit-storm-inducing post he wrote for us late last week titled “Sound Transit Financing Plan Jeopardizes Education Funding,” where he outlined his concerns about locking up the property taxes over the next generation for Sound Transit as the state struggles with its limited revenue streams to adequately fund education.

The concise reaction from Seattle Transit Blog’s Zach Shaner summarizes the main rejoinders to Carlyle’s position.

In Carlyle's new post, he laments that his own excitement about light rail got lost in the follow-up discussions where he was labeled “anti-transit," but he also embraces the strong reaction to his post—“it shows a deep desire to do more for transportation and education outside of the tired constraints of a broken revenue structure.”

And in no way, does Carlyle back down. "I myself find it distasteful to peel away the layers of how we as a state with an economically inefficient and inequitable tax structure have chosen to finance $54 billion." He's also got this quip for people who raised concerns with the $1.2 billion Alaska Way tunnel, but have fallen in line with  the $54 billion light rail plan:

I don’t mean to be flippant in reminding us that we’re spending $1.2 billion on a controversial deep bore tunnel to replace the Viaduct that has easily received 1000 times the policy debate, media coverage and activist scrutiny than the financing details of a $54 billion borrowing plan that will permanently alter the landscape of our taxation scheme.

Many people have approached me in the last 48 hours to ask me about senator Carlyle’s post—i.e., what was he thinking? Dude represents Ballard!, they note; Ballard is getting a light rail line (and a tunnel!) in ST3.

Carlyle elaborates about his frustration with the Sound Transit finance plan by detailing Sound Transit’s resistance to a different, more progressive taxing plan that Carlyle had pushed in Olympia.  

I think the following excerpt—Carlyle’s background on ST’s resistance to a business tax—may help readers get a better handle on where he’s coming from.

When Sound Transit came to Olympia with their proposed financing plan, I was chair of the House Finance Committee and I specifically raised the predicament of using the state portion of the property tax–reserved for education–for transportation.  Here are some of my public positions outlining my strong and consistent opposition to redirecting the property tax away from education to Sound Transit here, here and here.

Understandably, Sound Transit would not, in any way, shape or form, enter into meaningful discussions with me about alternative financing options including my recommendation of a modest business and employee transportation fee with an exemption for small businesses of 50 employees or less.  I made the case privately that premier companies such as Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia, Starbucks and others may actually view an employee transportation fee as having a relevant, direct nexus of value worthy of discussion.   If we are going to prioritize the spine in order to get people throughout the region, shouldn’t regional employers be a more robust part of the solution?  I think many of our business leaders would be open to that constructive discussion.  It’s not an entire solution but a modest link in a more progressive package.  I made the case that it was at least worth private discussions with the broader business community to assess the option and potential of a deal based on a strong nexus of value.

With due respect and deference, I believe a modest business employee fee–designed in partnership with the business community for transportation–shouldn’t be a holy untouchable revenue source.  Nor should additional targeted regional tolling.  Moreover, designing a 50-year revenue model is hard.  At a structural level, outside of the property tax, I think building 61% of the broader model on a sales tax base that is shrinking by the year (due to Internet, goods vs. services, etc.) is a mistake.  Philosophically, I have long advocated a more ‘pay as you go’ approach to government.

Of course, Sound Transit knew that redirecting the state’s portion of the property tax was still preferable to other options for their internal needs:  1) using local property tax authority that would have been felt by their own city and county members; 2) risking upsetting the business community essential to support and funding of a pro-Sound Transit 3 campaign;  3)  risking upsetting the more volatile Republican-led Senate and the deals needed to get authorization in the first place.  Finally, they had other senior Democratic legislators on board so my complaints about the property tax component were, understandably, more of an outlier nuisance.

In fairness, in their shoes, I may have taken the same political position and I harbor no ill will toward individuals or the institution.  In designing this package, they did what was in their best financial interests to keep ST3 moving forward.

Carlyle then concludes with his big takeaway from the debate.

"The teachable moment for me is a profound–and deeply powerful–reminder that in the end we at the state level don’t have the same passion, spirit, energy and drive to build a world-class education system that has been displayed in Seattle to build a 21st Century transportation system."

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